CEI, INL strike up workforce-training partnership

IDAHO FALLS — The College of Eastern Idaho and the company that manages the Idaho National Laboratory announced a partnership Wednesday to prepare the laboratory’s future workforce. The partnership includes a $1 million donation to help fund a 40,000-square-foot tech education facility.

College of Eastern Idaho President Rick Aman speaks during a press conference at the school Wednesday.

Battelle Energy Alliance officials presented the college with the donation during a press conference Wednesday morning. The money will go toward construction of a new $42.7 million “Future Tech Building,” which will serve around 1,000 students a year and house industry-aligned curriculum at the college, CEI leaders told EdNews Wednesday.

The partnership and facility will give East Idahoans a chance to get “all the training they need” and help INL “change the world,” INL Director John Wagner said in a press release ahead of the event.

The college is in the planning phase for constructing the building, which will stand on the north end of the college’s Idaho Falls campus and house coursework in career-technical education, science, technology, engineering and math. One focus is helping the college line up curriculum to industry needs at INL.

Some planned programs include:

  • Agri-tech
  • Battery technology
  • GIS modeling and virtual reality
  • Radiation safety
  • Solar technology
A rendering of CEI’s planned Future Tech Building to be located on the north end of the college’s Idaho Falls campus.

CEI Director of Strategic Partnership Ann Marie Peters said most of the funds for construction are already in place, including some $23 million from the state. Another $10 million from the college itself and other donations bring the current total to just under $34 million, Peters said, adding that the school is working to secure the rest of the money before breaking ground.

CEI, which boasts tuition at one-third of that at the state’s universities, served 18,620 students in 2020-21.

“Our hope is that many of these students will choose to remain in eastern Idaho and work at the INL or other industry partners throughout their career,” CEI President Rick Aman said.

Several state and local leaders attended Wednesday’s event, including Sen. Dave Lent; fellow Idaho Falls Republican Reps. Wendy Horman and Barbara Ehardt; and Gov. Brad Little, who also spoke to the roughly 75 in attendance.

Wednesday’s announcement follows Battelle’s $20,000 grant to the Idaho Falls School District, awarded last month to help connect high schoolers to high-demand career-technical jobs.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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